Genk secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League as a 1-1 draw with Gent sealed a resounding 6-3 aggregate success.
Thursday’s hosts had done most of the hard work in the opening leg against their fellow Belgian First Division A opponents, romping to a 5-2 win, and this result secured their place in the last eight of a major UEFA competition for the first time.
As a result Gent – who qualified for the championship round in their domestic league at the weekend while Genk missed out by a point – seemed unwilling to mount an attempt at staging what would have been a remarkable turnaround at Luminus Arena.
Their approach was perhaps best summed up by head coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck naming five teenagers on the bench, only one of whom had any prior first-team experience.
Needing at least four goals to advance, Gent were facing a tall order and the mountain’s summit receded further into the distance when Genk full-back Timothy Castagne thumped home in the 20th minute.
One of Gent’s youthful substitutes, Louis Verstraete, denied Genk an eighth successive European home win this season with a late equaliser, but it was scant consolation for the visitors, conquerors of Tottenham in the previous round.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 16, 2017
In front of watching former women’s tennis world number one Kim Clijsters, Genk had few scares with Gent seemingly preoccupied with regaining the league title they lost to Club Brugge last season.
With such a healthy first-leg advantage Genk were under no obligation to push forward but it was they who threatened initially as Ruslan Malinovskyi’s rasping shot struck team-mate Thomas Buffel and flew narrowly wide in the 11th minute.
The hosts did not have to wait long to extend their aggregate lead, though, as Castagne picked up a pass from Jean-Paul Boetius in the right channel and rifled a low drive across Lovre Kalinic inside the far post.
Gent finally sprang into life and almost provided a swift riposte as Kalifa Coulibaly’s header dropped just wide of the upright – that near miss and Jeremy Perbet’s header straight at Mat Ryan from Moses Simon’s free-kick as good as it got for the visitors in the first half.
There was little improvement in the second period, which petered out into an insipid affair with both sides aware the tie was over.
Boetius struck the base of the post 10 minutes from time after rounding Kalinic before Verstraete’s 84th-minute leveller proved a mere footnote as Genk took their place in Friday’s quarter-final draw with consummate ease.
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